If you’ve never tried yoga before you may have an image of sleek young women in leotards twisting themselves into pretzel shapes with seeming ease, and perhaps you are put off by that because you are neither sleek, young, nor perhaps even female.
The thing is, yoga can benefit men and women of all ages and all shapes and sizes, so it is certainly worth finding out more about it, and perhaps giving a class a try. You’ll be amazed to discover that yoga can prevent disease, and relieve aches and pains as well as help you balance your mental health.
One of the most obvious benefits of yoga is that you improve your flexibility. You may feel at a loss during the first class, watching everyone touch their toes with ease when you can barely reach your knees. The thing is, you build your flexibility with every practice. Over time you will become looser and you too will be able to tuck yourself into tight poses. You’ll notice that your aches and pains ease too, because yoga helps to realign your body and ease tightness and inflexible muscles and ligaments that over time cause problems with your posture, as well as pain in your hips and knees.
Following on from the first advantage you’ll notice a genuine toning of your muscles, and this will help guard against arthritis and back pain.
Yoga takes you through a full range of motion which is important for healthy cartilage which requires squeezing and soaking through movement. Without movement the cartilage can wear out and this exposes bone. Yoga can therefore protect your joints from degenerative arthritis. The vertebrae will also get a good workout through twists and forward and backward bends meaning your disks will stay supple. Weight-bearing yoga exercises will strengthen your arms and legs, and this can reduce the risk of fracture as you get older and become more brittle.
A regular yoga session will soon help you to feel your body and what it is doing when and where. You’ll quickly improve your balance simply because you’ll start to sense when you are not properly balanced. This is of particular importance for those people who have poor posture or knee or back issues.
You may think yoga is a mild form of exercise, and in many ways it is, however some yoga movements are aerobic and they will increase your heart rate. You can do any of the movements more vigorously if you wish or you can take flow or Ashtanga classes. Research shows that yoga can lower your resting heart rate and increase endurance. You’ll also take in more oxygen and increase your blood flow. More oxygen around your body helps to relieve swelling. Improved supply of oxygen to the blood cells can help heart or kidney problems and cut the level of clot-promoting proteins in the blood, decreasing your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
It’s a fact that yoga makes you happy. Any exercise will lead to an increase in serotonin levels, of course, but additional research from the University of Wisconsin, noted that with yoga ‘the left prefrontal cortex showed heightened activity in meditators’ meaning greater levels of happiness and better immune function. The findings were even more dramatic among those who were dedicated to yoga over a long period of time. Yoga can improve your state of mind too, by slowing down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that we all suffer that can cause us stress. Easing our stress leads to fewer associated health problems, meaning less risk of everything from migraines to heart attacks. A quiet mind means a longer and healthier life.
You’re already quite aware that you need to improve your diet and increase your exercise, aren’t you? Well, yoga will help you do both. You’ll feel more motivated to address your health concerns. Yoga encourages mindfulness and this may translate to what you eat.
In yoga you concentrate on every part of the move, feeling it, and breathing with it. It’s close to meditation. Focusing on the here and now regularly helps people to perform better in their daily lives. Research suggests yoga improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and even your IQ. You’ll be less distracted by your thoughts, and if you’re having problems with anxiety, you may see an improvement too. Yoga will help you find inner peace through regular practice. It’s like taking a mini-holiday.
There are several types of yoga that can really help you relax and live in the moment. A further advantage of this is that you provide more downtime for your busy body and brain, and in turn this can ensure better sleep. Improved sleep helps you to function better and improves stress levels and how you handle stress on a daily basis.
The problem with low self-esteem is we end up being really mean to ourselves. We over eat, over work, take drugs or drink alcohol in excess, we smoke, we starve ourselves of fun and sleep. Of course we’re going to pay the price for this with our mental and physical health. Yoga can be a positive influence on our lives because it slows us down and gives us time to reflect. You’ll feel more worthwhile because you are cherishing your body through the yoga postures and your breathing. You may even get in touch with a more spiritual side.
Yoga is worth trying because it is a great all-round exercise that offers physical, mental and emotional improvement. Postures, breathing techniques and meditation are part of the package and the benefits quickly accrue, so give it a try today.
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